The University of Scranton women’s basketball team was in search of offensive options.
The Lady Royals may have located the formula to get their season turned in the right direction when Alison Sweeney and Erin Boggan led the way Wednesday night in an 82-75 victory that continued the program’s dominance over visiting Marywood University.
“I still think the pieces are there for us to be successful,” Scranton coach Mike Strong said after his team began the process of recovering from its first 1-3 start since 1990. “They’re just not sewn together yet.”
Four straight road games to begin the season made it clear that the Lady Royals needed to formulate more offensive options to reach their accustomed level of success.
Sweeney, a sophomore guard, had an outstanding shooting night in the home opener to match a career-high with 31 points. Boggan gave the team an option in and around the paint while adding 19 points and 11 rebounds.
Freshman point guard Linday Fluehr showed the ability to get the ball to the right spots while posting 11 assists.
Once Sweeney and Boggan gave Marywood players it had to stop, Katherine Torto and reserves Christina Hiltunen and Sidney Jacques showed the ability to take advantage of more space while hitting from long range.
“I knew, especially after losing four senior starters, that different people were going to have to step up this year,” said Sweeney, who also had 31 in a late-season game against Landmark Conference champion Juniata College as a freshman. “I knew after last year that I would have to be one to step up, but also that a lot of girls would have to.”
Sweeney is leading the team with an average of 18.6 points per game. She was 10-for-17 from the floor, including 6-for-9 from 3-point range, and 5-for-6 from the line.
Boggan, a 6-foot-1 junior forward from Danbury, Conn., has become a valuable inside presence after transferring from Division I Gardner-Webb where she appeared in 23 games in two seasons. She is second on the team with 11.6 points per game and first in rebounds with 10.6.
While Boggan handled the inside, the Lady Royals had their best shooting night on the outside, going 11-for-19 from 3-point range while scoring 23 points over their season average.
Hiltunen was 2-for-3 from long range to provide eight points in 11 minutes.
Scranton improved to 33-0 in the series with Marywood, which started in 1975.
The game was tied until Boggan hit two free throws for a 67-65 Scranton lead with 6:30 left.
Marywood was still within two points until it started a streak of nine straight misses as Sweeney and Jacques were hitting back-to-back, 3-pointers for a 75-67 lead.
“Some of our girls who come from outside the Scranton area don’t know the intensity of the rivalry,” Strong said.
The intensity showed in efforts by the Pacers, who feature six Lackawanna County players, increasing their awareness of what it would mean to beat the nationally prominent program that the Lady Royals have built in 32 seasons under Strong.
Ashley Murray, a freshman from Dunmore who had also considered Scranton, kept pace with Sweeney early.
Sweeney had Scranton’s first eight points for an 8-5 lead with 17:20 left in the first half.
Murray had 11 points in the first 8:50, including joining Riverside graduate Morgann Haduck for back-to-back 3-pointers to cut Scranton’s lead to 17-16.
Marielle Thorsen led Marywood with 17 points, including 13 in the second half.
Murray and Mariah Schaeffer had 12 points each while Haduck had 10 in just 17 minutes off the bench. Allison Bruet had five assists and four steals.
Marywood (4-2) had a four-game winning streak broken when Scranton went 7-for-8 from the line in the final 45 seconds to seal the victory.